The Train to Füssen

August 7th …

I don’t have to get up early, but I do anyway, to see Lauren off. It’ll be quite strange having a whole room to myself, albeit for only a few more hours. I’m most nervous about finding my way over to my next hostel – my brain’s been on auto-pilot for the last 10 days.

As my acquaintances assemble by the front door, a young couple apparently tries taking a taxi van meant for my mates.  From what I can tell, the taxi driver basically yells at them to get out of the van; they do so quite reluctantly. The driver proceeds to get out of the van, has some choice words with the guy, and gives him a shove (I suspect the dude said something not-so-nice to him). The woman – wearing something more appropriate for a club than for outside a hotel at 7:20 a.m. – tries defusing the situation. But Taxi Guy’s clearly incensed. Somehow the situation dissipates.

After saying goodbye to Lauren and my other tour-mates, I rub my eyes and figure out what to do with myself.  

I change, shower, check the internet terminal to see if it’s free – tour-mate Kelly from New Zealand (one of the few remaining) is checking work e-mails and trying to find accommodation for the next night. I wait a little while longer, then check out what’s for breakfast in the “dining room.” I opt instead to return to my room and scrounge around in my backpack for a strategically-packed granola bar (one of many).

I return back downstairs to see if the terminal’s free, and run into Randy coming downstairs with his belongings. He’s going to his next hotel – a Hilton, no less – and then plans to take the train to the south of Bavaria. Apparently there are two castles, one of which belonged to King Ludwig II and was featured in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – and he bought a tour ticket to see both.

I voice an interest in also wanting to go; he says if Kelly (who’s still on the Internet) and I want to go with him, he’s going to catch a train at 9:51 a.m. from the central train station to Füssen, Germany, which is the nearest stop to the castles.

We hurriedly agree to meet and he takes off.

Upon discussing further, Kelly and I decide not to rush, since both of us still have to figure out where our respective accommodations are. And besides, haven’t we already spent 10 days rushing from place to place?

We leave together sometime after 9 a.m., the sun already beating down on us. We find the metro, and take some time figuring out our respective routes, as well as what time later trains leave for Füssen, then split up, promising to e-mail each other about when to meet up.

I reach my hostel surprisingly quickly, only to find out the room won’t be ready until 3 p.m. I store my bag in the luggage room in the basement, then wait for a free internet terminal and e-mail Kelly. We were going to try and board the 10:51 train; we agree instead to meet by the train ticket booths by 11:15 so we can catch the 11:51 train.

I kill some time in the main lobby before walking over to the metro, and taking it to the main station (I get there early). I pick a spot and I wait. And wait. And wait.

At 11:46, when I debate whether to go by myself or go back to the hostel, Kelly shows up. We bolt for the train station.

Trying to figure out what tickets to buy from the automated machines is stressful, as we don’t understand the system, and we have about four minutes to buy our tickets, and board the train. But how Kelly figures it out for us to board with about two minutes to spare, is still beyond me.

Once we stop panting from all the running, we settle in for the trip. Kelly was nice enough to get lunch for both of us – something resembling pizza or pizza-bread; whatever – at this point, I don’t care – and some lovely pastries.

We take in the scenery and try and get whatever breeze we can, as the train car is boiling hot.

Here’s where a seemingly simple trip gets complicated. We both fall asleep because we’re so tired. We’re awoken by the man checking tickets, who says first in German, then in English, “Last stop.”

Bleary-eyed, we get off the train and wander around … only to discover we didn’t go to Füssen. We have, in fact, have ended up in the town of Memmingen, the western-most town in the state of Bavaria, which sits near the border with the state of Baden-Württemberg

Of course, we don’t know any of this until we go to the station’s ticket office, where the man at the desk shows us Memmingen on a small map. He also informs us we should have transferred roughly an hour east of where we are, in the town of Buchloe. I’m slightly annoyed, but soon smiling and shaking my head with Kelly at our misadventure. We grab some pop and pastry, and then walk back to Memmingen station to wait another 40 minutes for the train going in the opposite direction.

We reach Füssen three and half hours later, taking in the scenery – and finally getting a fantastic view of the mountains as we pull into the station. We wait for the bus, then decide to cab it to the ticket information centre for Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein castles. We can still see the former, but the latter will be closed by the time we get there. So we get tickets for Hohenschwangau Castle and then decide to go the whole hog and take a horse-drawn carriage to the base of the castle.

The tour itself was only okay, but the inside – all the ornate fixtures and decorations – was ridiculous. It’s too bad I couldn’t take any pictures. Even if I did, they probably wouldn’t have done it justice.

By the end of the tour, it’s started raining a bit. We take a chance and walk over to the other castle to get a look. It takes about 40 minutes, and I’m not kidding when I say it’s a bit of a climb – the way up is steeper than what we’ve been used to during the trip. But just being out in the fresh air, taking in where we are, makes the walk well-worth it.

We then decide to cap off our visit by walking up and around to Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge), from which you get the best views of Neuschwanstein Castle.

The upward hike takes another half-hour or so. The bridge itself when we get to it, is ridiculously high. And for two women of the Commonwealth who are skittish about heights, that’s a big friggin’ deal.

We inch arross the bridge, snap some pictures of the castle (which really is something in its own right), and go back across, trying NOT to look down. We go back on it a second time, since Kelly figures we can’t come ALL this way not to take pictures of ourselves on the bridge. (If I had a full bladder, I would’ve peed myself right there from sheer nervousness.)

We make the steep ascent back down, take a cab back to Füssen, where again, we cut it even closer trying to catch the train back to Munich. But make it we did, about three or so hours later.

Wow. What an adventure. But it’s almost over – one more day in Munich.

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